(CMC) – The head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham, says apolitical process is needed for Caribbean countries to fully embrace the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Voters in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda earlier this week rejected moves in separate referenda to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court. In the case of Grenada it was the second occasion that the voters there had rejected the CCJ that was established in 2001 and also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement, CARICOM.
Figures released by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) showed that of the 17,743 votes counted, the “No” vote secured 9, 234 as against 8,509 for the “Yes” vote.
In the case of Grenada, the figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) showed that the “No’ vote secured 12,133 as compared to 9,846 for those supporting the CCJ.
“I think the idea of being non-partisan was an attempt to deal with the reaction Dr. Mitchell (Grenada Prime Minister) got before when he was told it was too partisan, Wickham told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) noting that the partisan approach had been tried that seemed to have failed.
“I think that they were trying was a non-partisan approach. When failure seemed imminent then the partisanship certainly in the case of Antigua and Barbuda last minute it came in and then again it did not work out.
“Frankly I think what you will have is an opposition lying in wait and using its poet to frustrate this process at every turn of the way. I think whether it is partisan or non-partisan ultimately people will have to understand that a partisan political process or a political process is what will get the CCJ pass,” Wickham said.
He said this had been the case in the other countries – Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana- where no referendum was called to allow voters to indicate whether or not they supported the CCJ, which has both an Original and Appellate Jurisdiction.
“A political process is what is needed to get it passed in these countries (that do not have the legislative requirement). So the fact that you have a referendum, there is no obligation for a referendum to be seen in a partisan political way.
“If a politician and a leader supporters it, he supports it because it is a good thing. It is not necessarily a party political issue because you can vote against the government and then support a referendum because you support the CCJ”.
Asked what would be the next step for Caribbean governments to get the regional population fully on board the CCJ, Wickham said the failure to get Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada voters to accept the Trinidad-based Court “may well end to give it some energy.
“Because I think the conversation in both places has isolated to the extent to which people who do not support it are essentially supporting a very backward, non-independent approach to Caribbean development and my hope is that against the background you will get some energy from Jamaica, some energy from Trinidad and Tobago, some energy maybe from St. Lucia and places that do nots require a referendum.
“I think if that happens, if we have another large population , like Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago coming on board it will give the CCJ the energy and I think it will further isolated the countries in which the referendum is necessary…and hopefully bring them on board.
“I am convinced that if we had government and opposition stand shoulder to shoulder that this CCJ could be pulled through, but the opposition has to grow up, have to be more mature and have to stop using this as an opportunity to punish a government for their own failures at the elections,” Wickham told CMC.